Wed. Dec 8th, 2021


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An electric car is seen plugged into a charging point for electric vehicles in Rome, Italy, on April 28, 2021. REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane


By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – Increased investment by new and established carmakers in the electric vehicle market is a boon for factory equipment manufacturers supplying highly automated pickups and blades for feverfew prospectors. ‘or EV.

The good times for manufacturers of robots and other factory equipment reflect the broader recovery in American manufacturing. After falling after COVID to $ 361.8 million in April 2020, new orders reached nearly $ 506 million in June, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here is a chart about making new orders in the US:

New electric vehicle factories, funded by investors who have acquired new public shares in companies such as start-up EV Lucid Group Inc, are increasing demand. “I’m still not sure it’s reached its climax. There’s still a long way to go,” Andrew Lloyd, leader of the electromobility segment of supplier Comau, which owns Stellantis, said in an interview. “Over the next 18 to 24 months, there will be significant demand coming to us.”

The growth of the electric vehicle industry, driven by the success of Tesla (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc., adds to what manufacturing equipment manufacturers do to support the production of gasoline-powered vehicles.

Automakers will invest more than $ 37 billion in U.S. plants from 2019 to 2025, with 15 of the 17 new plants in the United States, according to LMC Automotive. More than 77% of this expenditure will go to SUV or EV projects.

Equipment vendors are in no hurry to add their near-full capacity.

“There’s a natural point where we’ll say ‘No’ to new business,” said Lloyd de Comau. “Just for an area of ​​a factory, such as a paint shop or a body shop, an automaker can easily spend.” between $ 200 million and $ 300 million, industry officials said.

“WILD, WILD WEST” “This industry is the wild west right now,” John Kacsur, vice president of the automotive and tire segment at Rockwell Automation (NYSE :), told Reuters. “There’s a crazy race to get these new EV variants to market.” Automakers have signed agreements for suppliers to build equipment for 37 electric vehicles between this year and 2023 in North America, according to industrial consultancy Laurie Harbor. This excludes all work done for gasoline-powered vehicles.

“There is still a pipeline with projects for new electric vehicle manufacturers,” said Mathias Christen, a spokesman for Durr AG, which specializes in paint shop equipment and saw its electric vehicle business grow by about 65 percent. last year. “That’s why we don’t see the peak yet.”

Orders received by Kuka AG, a manufacturing automation company owned by Chinese group Midea Group, rose 52% in the first half of 2021 to just under € 1.9 billion ($ 2.232 billion), the second highest level for a period of 6 months in the company. history, due to strong demand in North America and Asia.

“We ran out of capacity for any additional work about a year and a half ago,” said Mike LaRose, CEO of Kuka Automotive Group in the Americas. “Everyone is so busy that there is no usable area.”

Kuka builds electric vans for General Motors Co. (NYSE 🙂 at its Michigan plant to help meet early demand before the No. 1 U.S. automaker replaces the equipment at its Ingersoll plant, Ontario, next year to manage regular work. Automakers and battery companies have to order many of the robots and other equipment they need 18 months in advance, though Neil Dueweke, automotive vice president of U.S. operations at Fanuc (OTC 🙂 Corp. said customers want their equipment first. It says “Amazon effect (NASDAQ :)” in the industry.

“We built a facility and we have 5,000 robots on shelves stacked at 200 feet high, almost from what you see,” said Dueweke, who noted that Fanuc America set sales and market share records. last year.

COVID has also caused problems and delays in some car manufacturers trying to equip themselves.

RJ Scaringe, CEO of startup EV Rivian, said in a letter to customers last month that “from the construction of facilities, to the installation of equipment, to the supply of vehicle components ( especially semiconductors) has been affected by the pandemic “.

However, long-established customers such as GM and the parts supplier and contract manufacturer Magna International (NYSE 🙂 said they have not experienced delays in receiving equipment.

Another limiting factor in capacity has been the continued shortage of labor, industry officials said.

To avoid stress, emerging companies like Fisker Inc. have turned to contract manufacturers like Magna and Foxconn, whose purchasing power allows them to avoid shortages more easily, said CEO Henrik Fisker.

Growing demand, however, does not mean that these equipment manufacturers are rushing to expand capacity.

After experiencing setbacks in which they were forced to make cuts, equipment suppliers want to settle for what they have or, in the case of Comau, only need to add capacity in the short term, according to Lloyd.

“Everyone is afraid of being hammered,” said Mike Tracy, director of consulting firm Agile Group. “They just don’t have the reserve capacity they used to have.”

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